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Hard Times, but we'll pull through!

Fourareen ferrying passengers from Burra to Quarff. Smith, J. H. (c.1910) ©Shetland Museum & Archives.
Fourareen ferrying passengers from Burra to Quarff. Photo: Smith, J. H. (c.1910) ©Shetland Museum & Archives.

For all of us life, during the past few weeks, has become to a greater or lesser degree surreal. On the one hand everything is pretty normal; however in reality, our lives are now far from 'normal,' and as things stand our life styles are going to be disrupted for the foreseeable future.' Shetland in times past has gone through many turbulent times and periods of unimaginable hardship. During the 14th century the bubonic plague came to Shetland which decimated communities. Throughout Shetland's history starvation was a frequent visitor, as were infectious deadly diseases such as small pox, cholera, and scarlet fever.

For us residents in Shetland, wider Scotland, and the rest of the UK our world changed dramatically on 23rd March at 20:30 hours, when Boris Johnson made his address to the nation and placed the United Kingdom in a state of lock-down for an initial period of three weeks. For weeks, prior to Boris's address, we have been hearing about the serious nature of this pandemic. However it has felt distant; I was far too wrapped-up in the important and interesting stuff of submitting our Burra Noost Project funding application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund!

How crazy was I, or am I still totally crazy! This morning my main concern has been will our order of coal arrive on Thursday? We are running a tad low and, sadly, we rely upon coal to heat our croft house and to fuel our Rayburn on which we cook our meals. Umm, this is a very sobering issue. I am digressing from my point which is this, we are going to have to adopt a new approach to the way we live our daily lives very quickly. Now, this might be inconvenient, but actually it is perhaps not a bad thing to do. Looking at things from a different point of view is healthy and, thinking about it, we are at this very moment creating a new history that will be scrutinised in years to come by yet to be born researchers and academics. How will they view us? How will they tell our story?

Stories of lives past are important, it is these stories that help form our cultural identity, and this is partly what Moder Dy is trying to do with the Burra Noost Project. Because of Covid-19 we are having to rethink how we connect with our community; the obvious way to do this is online, and we would like to gather the stories of previous generations of Shetlanders to help todays generation, and future generations, appreciate what their lives were like. These stories help us and our community to create a better understanding and connection with Shetland's cultural heritage which was one that revolved around travel in small open boats by sea.

How can you help?

So, if you have a story, or you know someone who has a story they would like to share please get in touch. We would also be delighted to hear from you if you would like to write a blog post on any aspect of small boat maritime heritage. Also, if you happen to live in Shetland and have a noost nearby please let us know. We look forward to hearing from you.

In the meantime stay safe and stay indoors. If we can help you in anyway please let us know.

Marc Chivers,

24th March 2020

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